Archive for the ‘peace-making’ Category

So what about those North Koreans? As the SWJ put it, a small war in Korea was postponed. I’d query “small”, especially in the special sense they use it – it wouldn’t have been particularly small and it would have been defined by high-intensity battle – but perhaps they are really thinking of whatever would happen after North Korea, as in David Maxwell’s paper I linked to. (Maxwell turns up in the comments thread.) The postwar is reasonably certain to show up; the big question is whether Korea has to go through the big war to get there.

It’s worth noting that the North Koreans took care to be seen to be alert and causing trouble during the exercises off Yeonpyeong, but without doing anything that would be unambiguously hostile. It’s also interesting that they seem to have used electronic warfare as a way of signalling their continued determination to fight in a field that wasn’t a direct challenge to the South Koreans and their allies.

Actually, all parties to the conflict attempted to find alternative forms of confrontation in order to exert power while trying to keep control of the escalation dynamic. I recently saw somewhere on the Web a reference to the idea that having multiple independent forms of power or status was an egalitarian force in society as they could balance each other. It’s certainly an important concept in international politics. North Korea’s original bombardment of Yeonpyeong was a direct and physical, kinetic, attack on the disputed border – at one level, they hoped that if there was no response from the South, they would have set a precedent that South Korea could not treat the island and part of the surrounding sea as entirely its own territory. More strategically, it was a demonstration that they were willing to cause trouble in order to extract concessions, and that they were willing to escalate significantly.

From the Southern side, there were serious restrictions to the possible response. Anything they could do in the same context would either have involved risking bringing about the big war, or else risking a disastrous fiasco – a major raid over the border would have been too much, a commando operation to destroy the guns facing Yeonpyeong would have risked ending up with prisoners in North Korea. There is not much at the moment they could do to put pressure on North Korea economically, and the North Koreans often respond to economic problems by provocations designed to get economic concessions. The North Koreans held escalation dominance – they could choose whether to go further, without necessarily having to go for the ultimate deterrent.

This is why the navies were so important. Although they were constrained in what they could do in one context, the Peninsula, the US Navy and its allies were not so constrained in bringing ships into international waters in the area. The response was to move the focus of the conflict into a different context. Also, cooperating at sea allowed Japan and South Korea to demonstrate alliance unity in a way that they could not otherwise – nobody would bring Japanese troops to Korea, for example, but there is no such objection to Japanese, US, and South Korean ships (or aircraft) cooperating. This is still true even though the US-made or US-inspired equipment aboard those ships permits them to cooperate very closely indeed, with radars aboard one ship, aircraft from another, a command centre in yet another, and missiles aboard a fourth being internetworked.

Also, there was very little the North Koreans could do about it without taking unacceptable risks (even for them). The biggest concern for the allied ships was that the North might lay mines in the narrow seas west of Korea. Paradoxically, the North Koreans were probably self-deterred from doing this – had they got lucky and sunk the Jimmy Carter while she was spying around Yeonpyeong, the consequences would probably not have been ideal from their point of view.

Another parallel form of conflict was the nuclear issue. North Korea had just revealed its new uranium enrichment cascade when it started shelling Yeonpyeong, after all. Bill Richardson’s officially-unofficial mission to North Korea brought back the offer to sell North Korea’s stock of plutonium to the South. This sounds better than it is, precisely because they now have the capability to use uranium rather than plutonium. On the other hand, accepting it is sensible – it’s a matching concession to de-escalate the situation, less plutonium in North Korea is probably desirable, and it moves the nuclear debate onto the slower “enrichment track”.

The nuclear debate also provided an opportunity for the Chinese government to play the role of turning up late but bringing a solution. If the 12,000 rods do leave North Korea, a big question is where they would go. The Chinese might buy them and might even offer fuel of some description in return, a replay of the 1994 framework agreement.


I think most of my readers also read Patrick Lang’s blog, but I think this guest post is the best thing yet written on the Taliban/SIS/McChrystal/Petraeus fake sheikh affair. Really, there’s a great movie to be made here – the multiplicity of motives, the ironic contrast between the absurd story and the deadly serious interests and emotions that drive it forward, the eternal ambiguity of the relationship between the manipulator and the manipulated.

The ISI comes out of it as being dastardly clever, but in a deeply futile way. They succeed in preventing a dangerous outbreak of peace and sanity, but what have they gained? The wars grind on, the butcher’s bill ticks up, the fantasy of a Pakistani empire of trucks and pipes across the Hindu Kush is as far away as ever, the Indians continue with their industrialisation across the other border.

The Americans come out of it as being well-meaning but naive. After all, they only get into this story because they want peace. So does the real Taliban leader. They both share a sort of big, stupid nobility.

The British do almost as badly as the ISI; not only do they end up being the dupes of the piece, they do so without the saving grace of having good intentions. They’re as naive as the Americans but more underhanded. SIS gets involved purely as a way of sucking up to the Americans and putting one over its real enemies, GCHQ, Her Majesty’s Forces, MI5, and the main-line Foreign Office diplomats. The Government is desperately keen on the project for similarly base reasons – to suck up to the Americans, to grab at an opportunity to solve its problem in Afghanistan, and of course to embarrass the Labour Party. Of course, it would have been a brilliant political fix had it come off – but the master manipulator is not Bismarck but William Hague.

The fake sheikh, meanwhile, is a classic example of the Pinocchio/Hauptmann von Kopenick theme – the puppet of bigger forces who becomes a power in his own right. Without his successful performance, of course, none of the many expectations curling around the tale have a hope of happening. His agency is real, and his character expands to fill the role. The fact that the whole project is an exercise in theatre is interesting in itself – a film within the film. The actors in the film are, of course, puppets of the script and the direction, and it is a work of fiction. The enduring purpose of the theatre and the cinema, however, is that works of fiction have real influence on their audiences. Like the fake sheikh.

After all, the grocer of Quetta (not a bad title) is the only character in the drama who successfully pursues his interests. He gets some interesting time off away from his bazaar stall, and even gets rich. You could play this as the ordinary man who succeeds in making fools of the powerful who insist on involving him in their schemes, or perhaps as a microcosm of all the people who are getting rich off the continued war, Mother Courage rather than Kopenick. Alternatively he could be killed off, casting the whole thing as an utterly bleak tragedy. However, arguably the classic in this vein is The Third Man and that sticks with the tragicomic.

Laura Rozen reports that the US government is talking about Pakistan’s “existential crisis”. (They do not mean, apparently, brooding about lobsters and smoking too much.) It’s currently being manifested by the Pakistani army fighting its way back into the Malakand Division; basic details here. Fans of Winston Churchill’s My Early Life will of course remember that he took part in a similar operation in exactly the same place as a young man. Some words of his are probably appropriate here:

The Political Officers who accompanied the force, with white tabs on their collars, parleyed all the time with the chiefs, the priests and other local notables. These political officers were very unpopular with the army officers. They were regarded as marplots. It was alleged that they always patched things up and put many a slur upon the prestige of the Empire without ever letting anyone know about it. They were accused of the grievous crime of “Shilly
shallying,” which being interpreted means doing everything you possibly can before you shoot.

We had with us a very brilliant political officer, a Major Deane, who was much disliked because he always stopped military operations. Just when we were looking forward to having a splendid fight and all the guns were loaded and everyone keyed up, this Major Deane – and why was he a Major anyhow? so we said, being in truth nothing better than an ordinary politician – would come along and put a stop to it all. Apparently all these savage chiefs were his old friends and almost his blood relations. Nothing disturbed their friendship. In between the fights, they talked as man to man and as pal to pal, just as they talked to our General as robber to robber.

We knew nothing about the police vs. the crook gangs in Chicago, but this must have been in the same order of ideas. Undoubtedly they all understood each other very well and greatly despised things like democracy, commercialism, money-getting, business, honesty and vulgar people of all kinds. We on the other hand wanted to let off our guns. We
had not come all this way and endured all these heats and discomforts which really were trying – you could lift the heat with your hands, it sat on your shoulders like a knapsack, it rested on your head like a nightmare – in order to participate in an interminable interchange of confidences upon unmentionable matters between the political officers and these sulky and murderous tribesmen.

And on the other side we had the very strong spirit of the ‘die-hards’ and the ‘young bloods’ of the enemy. They wanted to shoot at us and we wanted to shoot at them. But we were both baffled by what they called the elders, or as one might now put it ‘the old gang,’ and by what we could see quite plainly, the white tabs or white feathers on the lapels of the political officers.

As it turned out, the traditional authorities who Major Deane knew so well couldn’t hold back the young bloods on this occasion, or it didn’t suit their aims to do so, and Lieutenant Churchill and friends got the fight they were looking for.

However, nobody ever seriously imagined they would sweep out of the mountains into the Punjab. The only people who did imagine that were in distant London and almost as distant Delhi, where they insisted on imagining Russians everywhere. Otherwise, the question was always one of compromise. Today, we insist on projecting visions of the armies of Al-Qa’ida sweeping into the Punjab; as is well pointed out here, this is just as unlikely as it was in the days of Sir Bindon Blood as it is in the era of David Kilcullen.

As Arif Rafiq warns, the theatre of violence and the bureaucratic glamour of Richard Holbrooke is having much the same effect on the US government and the thinktank industry as the announcement of Bindon Blood mobilising for the Frontier had on the British Indian army of young Winston’s day. Every ambitious young fool is suddenly a Pakistan expert, much as Churchill called in all his political contacts and travelled two thousand miles overland whilst theoretically on leave in order to get shot at in Malakand. You have to show willing, after all.

Hysteria has been a constant in Western thought about Pakistan ever since it was created. However, as I’ve said before, somehow the worst-case scenarios have a way of not happening. Either we’re all incredibly lucky, or else the forces in Pakistani society that make for stability are stronger than outsiders imagine. It is worth repeating to yourself that 85 per cent of the population lives in Punjab or Sindh and that of the remaining 15 per cent, only 15 per cent of the fraction that lives in the NWFP votes Islamist.

Of course, hysteria has its uses; hence Robert Kaplan musing on just getting rid of Pakistan.

Especially in the west, the only border that lives up to the name is the Hindu Kush, making me think that in our own lifetimes the whole semblance of order in Pakistan and southeastern Afghanistan could unravel, and return, in effect, to vague elements of greater India

Can anyone imagine how this sounds to, say, a Pakistani Army officer? It’s the business-class version of hoo-yah fuckwit Ralph Peters’ irresponsible furblings. An exercise; substitute “Rio Grande” for Hindu Kush, Mexico for Pakistan, Texas for Afghanistan, and Spain for India, and you’ve got a classic American Apocalypse/Immigrant Panic rant. Although, Tom Ricks does Kaplan a disservice by confusing the Indus and the Tigris. It isn’t quite that insane, but I think the slip is telling.

But the important point is that permanent crisis fuels the crisis industry. It helps to legitimate your ideas and staff your organisation. At the other end of the pipe, the permanent crisis helps the Pakistani government’s Pakistan desk manipulate the US government’s Pakistan desk. And their top priority is, of course, India; Robert Kaplan’s geopolitics quoted above is all about looking north from the sea, towards Afghanistan, over Pakistan’s shoulder as it were.

Want a policy prescription? Well, if everyone else is an expert, at least I serve only my own interests, and I have run this by the only Musharraf supporter I’ve ever met. I recommend a combination of this:

so if the people feel they don’t have a say in their own fate, “Washington” should come up with a new plan they don’t have any say in? I don’t get it. The one thing we haven’t tried doing yet is persuading the Pakistani people we’re on their side, rather than telling them we are and dumping millions of unaccountable dollars into their country.

and this:

But cliche seems to drive policy here. Pakistan doesn’t need gap shrinkers, assault ships, setting up the precinct or any other Thomas Barnett bollocks. What it needs is respect, and specifically respect for civilian government.

Just stop pressing those buttons.

Meanwhile, this is good news. As more and more ships from various parts of the world – like China and Iran – arrive in pirate country, somebody’s made vaguely sensible arrangements to put them on trial in Kenya, which is what has been done with the ones captured by Northumberland. This is a much better idea than returning them to the tender mercies of Somali rivals, or alternatively to their home base, or any evil nonsense promoted by tiresome Internet hard men. (You know who you are.)

I’m not sure whether to be pleased, or worried that China and Iran are apparently cooperating in an exercise designed to be more law-abiding than some British courts, and far more so than whole swaths of the US defence establishment. This is incredibly important; I keep saying that a primary reason for the success of some Islamist movements is that they offer some form of legal order, rather than Franz Neumann’s Behemoth.

After all, dogs have an innate appreciation of justice, so we should surely accept that it matters for human beings too. As a modest proposal, now the EU has taken over the lead in combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden, could we perhaps give the naval task force a further mission – to compel EU-flag fishing vessels to respect the Somali EEZ? (We wouldn’t have legal authority to stop anyone else without a UN resolution, but it’s a start.) I agree they have plenty on their plate, which is why I’m going to make a second modest proposal.

Rather than frigates, EU states participating in this could instead deploy some of their sizeable fleet of amphibious assault ships, with a deckload of helicopters, a dock of small craft, and a tankdeck containing a mix of marines for boarding parties, and medics, engineers etc to support the UN’s aid activities.

There is a fascinating post at Pat Lang’s about a study trip to Lebanon which involved meeting some interesting and alarming people (Samir Geagea, described here as “a bit Lyndon LaRouche” – well, whatever hard things have been said, quite understandably, about the latter, he never commanded a militia that cut huge crosses in the bodies of its enemies). Bashir Assad’s wife is apparently an Obama Girl, Walid Jumblatt is losing his wits, Saad Hariri is an arrogant twit, Rafiq Hariri’s sister is considerably smarter than Saad, Siniora is a Mann ohne Eigenschaften, and all the Hezbollah representatives they met were very impressive indeed, once they laid off the war porn propaganda pix.

Apart from this Lebanese version of the Spectator at its best, I was interested by this:

Amin Gemayel was not particularly forthcoming, and seemed badly out of touch. When pressed for details on a number of points he was completely at a loss. He seemed to resort to stock politician phrases even in personal conversation. My impression was of a man losing vitality. I tried to push him on the question of what a real ‘national defense strategy’ would be, seeking some common ground between him and Hezbollah. He replied that he envisaged a ‘Swiss model’ of every citizen owning a gun. Incredulous, I asked him if that would really deter Israeli or Syrian aggression. He responded evasively, citing the importance of various UN resolutions. When I cornered him privately after the session, he said that in the 1970s they had tried to acquire Crotale air defense systems but were thwarted by Israeli pressure, indicating that similar factors were at play today.

Not that he means much these days, but I can’t see what the objection to a “Swiss model” would be. In fact, Hezbollah’s total strategy down south appears to have been exactly that in 2006. And given that Lebanon will always be surrounded by bigger powers with dubious intentions, and it is unlikely to be allowed to create a manoeuvre-warfare capability even if it can afford to (see above), it’s hard to see what other policy is available.

Further, the availability of cheap ATGWs and electronics is a big boost to the strength of such a force, and there is no shortage of people to use them. In some ways it’s a lot like the development of another well-known army in the Levant, which was founded on the guerrilla wing of an integrated political party/economic development organisation/rebel army. Can anyone guess which it was? Of course, the Israelis concentrated on buying tanks – but then, they weren’t in the mountains. The other good thing about such a policy is that it would be a handy way of dealing with the existence of militias – wrapping them into some sort of national command structure.

And, of course, Lebanon used to call itself the Switzerland of the Middle East. The similarities are actually more than you think – cantons of differing linguistic/religious identities, mountain frontiers, a profitably discreet and profitably dubious banking sector. You can even ski. But, you know, Switzerland as an island of perfect peace is quite a new idea, created by its neutrality in the world wars – before then, well…there’s a reason why the pope has Swiss guards, which is that back in the day, Swiss mercenaries scared the hell out of Europe so much that some international treaties specifically bound the parties not to recruit them for use against Christians. (Savages, well, that was OK.)

The overall impression is that the system is gradually working its way back into equilibrium, not least as a result of Bush no longer having an active policy. “Have you figured them out?” asked Zaphod. “No, I’ve just stopped fiddling with them..”

Crack BBC journo Peter Taylor’s film The Secret Peacemaker, about Brendan Duddy, the man who maintained secret communications between the IRA leadership and the British government from the early 70s to 1993, was a cracker; it provided rich detail about the practicalities of ending the war, the missed opportunities of the first ceasefire, and moreover it conveyed something of the weird atmosphere. Secret meetings with spooks and terrorists were held in a Thatcherite DIY conservatory, and it struck me that most media coverage of Northern Ireland was always urban; intellectually, I knew there had to be countryside, and that due to its latitude and geography it would look vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t prepared for it looking quite so much like the moors. And the killer detail is surely that Duddy knew Martin McGuinness from when he delivered fish to his dad’s chip shop.

But rather than the mood music, a real point which nobody picked up on: here’s something from Taylor’s summary of the film, as published in the Guardian.

But one of the great mysteries of the peace process remained. Who did send the famous “conflict is over” message? I pointed out to Duddy that if he didn’t send it and McGuinness didn’t send it, that only left “Fred”.

Duddy was protective of the man he had come to admire. “I don’t want to say, as he’s a wonderful, honourable man.” The message was written in pencil in a hotel room in London. “It seems to me that message was to encourage the British government to actually believe dialogue was possible,” Duddy said. But the revelation of the messages and the unauthorised March meeting also marked the end of “Fred”. The government was appalled at how he had exceeded his brief, disobeyed instructions and almost brought the prime minister down. “Fred”, in Brendan’s words, was “court-martialled”. As he said goodbye, he gave Duddy a farewell present, a book inscribed with a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid: “One day it will be good to remember these things.”

When I read this I double-took; did he really just say “the conflict is over” was actually sent by an MI5 agent exceeding his authority? You what? It was what I think of as an Embassy Phew, after the bit in Conrad’s The Secret Agent where Comrade Ossipon finally gets clued-in to the fact Verloc has always been a stool pigeon for both the plod and the Russians. Police! Embassy! Phew! The political equivalent of the sensation of a cricket ball not quite hitting your head.

You would have thought that this was front-page stuff; “Fred” ended the war in Northern Ireland and nearly disposed of John Major, at one stroke of his pencil, whilst also precipitating the interrogation of Duddy. Frankly, he deserves a knighthood for the first two out of those three; he may of course have got one. But there are some pretty gigantic constitutional issues here, no? I mean, did the spies deceive the prime minister? As usual, the limits of British political discourse are that it stops as soon as you get to the question of power.

Alternatively, it’s possible that the message was given to “Fred” by a third party; it’s certainly not impossible that he had other Republican contacts, a back channel to the back channel. Or perhaps, as it seems that whatever the facts about the message, it accurately described the IRA leaders’ thoughts, an intelligence source in the IRA clued him in? (If it was the near-legendary Freddie Scappaticci, you’d be forgiven for suggesting it was more of a back passage than a back channel.) After all, it would be surprising, had he simply made it all up, if the results had accurately matched the IRA’s intentions. That suggests strongly that if the message wasn’t received from someone, it was composed with extensive knowledge of the IRA leadership’s thoughts; which begs the question of exactly what the word “message” means.

Presumably “Fred” was required to report on what was said at the meetings as well as what the IRA told him to pass on; it’s not impossible that a text which contained his opinion of their intentions, or a summary of the conversation, was taken for a verbatim message. In which case, it’s possible that the IRA deliberately signalled its content to him in order to stay plausibly deniable; a virtual back channel within a channel. At which point, the brain reels.

So, Barack Obama is now an evil warmongering bastard like all the others who wants to invade Pakistan or a girly man who doesn’t want to nuke Pakistan, depending on ideological preference. The reason was a speech on foreign policy he recently gave, and subsequent reporting.

You can see how it happened. It spooked me; was he really suggesting something that deranged while also accusing Hillary Clinton of being “Bush-Cheney lite”? But then, I took a radical step. I actually read the text of the speech; yuh, it might shock some.

Here she goes. Here’s the relevant section:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

And Pakistan needs more than F-16s to combat extremism. As the Pakistani government increases investment in secular education to counter radical madrasas, my Administration will increase America’s commitment. We must help Pakistan invest in the provinces along the Afghan border, so that the extremists’ program of hate is met with one of hope. And we must not turn a blind eye to elections that are neither free nor fair — our goal is not simply an ally in Pakistan, it is a democratic ally.

Compared with the reporting of this, I’m underwhelmed, especially as it comes after a good dozen pars on the necessity to get out of Iraq, repudiate torture, and crank up peaceful responses to terrorism. I’m very dubious about the whole story of the 2005 meeting, but I would point out that of course there are circumstances when it would be the right decision; Osama in person, making tracks for the UAE with a Ghaznavi-2 nuclear missile on its TEL vehicle, say.

It’s just very, very unlikely that a raid in Pakistan would ever be wise, and therefore we should set our cognitive filters accordingly. In fact, the rest of the speech is far more important; Pakistan certainly needs more than F-16s to combat extremism, and it’s high time to think about how to end the current situation where the secular and semi-secular forces are divided between the Musharraf King’s party and everyone else, being opposed by some combination of jihadis, the ISI, and various regional insurgents.

And I especially like his suggestion of a major commitment of aid in education and the creation of real judiciaries and police forces. This ispretty good, too, even if Yglesias don’t like it.

But it does go to show that you’ve got to read the documents. For everything else, I’m of the opinion that anyone who even imagines dropping a nuclear bomb on three terrorists and a goat is insane.

Over at Slugger, they are discussing an alleged proposal from the UDA that the government give it £1 billion to end its campaign of violence and convert itself into a legal organisation. At one level, you’d be forgiven for spitting coffee on your keyboard at such shameless blackmail. But there is a valid point here. What do you do with a private army when its time has passed?

There are a couple of historical courses. One of them is to integrate it into the regular armed forces of the state. This has been pursued by among others Finland, France, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the Republic of Ireland itself. The degrees of success vary widely. De Gaulle took the decision to disband the Resistance and recruit its members into the regular French army in August, 1944, thus avoiding the possibility of a private army continuing to exist after the war and also putting an anchor out to windward against any other generals wanting to be king. He was probably also concerned that a Resistance persisting into the postwar would be essentially communist, just like it had been during the war. However, having lost power, he found that his future political career couldn’t do without the Service d’Action Civique private intelligence service/goon squad.

Finland chose between two rival rebel armies, one nationalist and one communist, had a brief civil war, and then had some trouble integrating the remaining communists into the new army, not to mention more trouble between the German-trained Jäger and the rest, but eventually managed it. South Africa decided to integrate the ANC’s bush fighters into the old SADF as a new National Defence Force, which worked out at least in the sense that there was no trouble. (It worked out far less well in terms of force readiness, and released a troublesome population of mercenaries onto the market, though.)

Zimbabwe had one of the worst experiences of this kind. The ex-Rhodesian army, ZANU-PF and ZANLA were all meant to be merged into one British-trained army. General Rupert Smith describes what happened after that in The Utility of Force, which I promise I’ll get round to reviewing. The British advisers suggested that the new force should standardise on the Rhodesians’ equipment, as this would mean ammunition would have to come from the central arsenal, and therefore any violence between factions could be shut off by denying it bullets. The Rhodesians refused to hand their arms to their ex-enemies, and so the force was built up with the Soviet-type weapons the guerrillas handed in – for which the ammunition was widely available on the black market, and which the parties held illegal stocks of. This meant that the ZANU was able to form another brigade (the 5th) outside the terms of the agreement, with which it proceeded to crush the supporters of ZANLA.

Eire, having had its civil war, suffered problems with the heirs of the contending parties (the Army and the Citizen Force) for years, although it didn’t amount to a serious threat to the peace. So, it can work, but a) it’s difficult and b) the requirements are complicated. In Northern Ireland, the reaction of the Republicans to a proposal to put more UDA men into the army is something we can all do without. (Not to mention that the Royal Irish Regiment is being reduced in strength.)

Another option is to demobilise it. This requires the consent of the demobilised just as much as integration, and they may have security and/or identity concerns that call for some sort of successor organisation. It also places a challenge on society to reintegrate them, not least to create jobs. A notable example where this was done, proved difficult, and eventually succeeded is Israel.

There’s also the option of permitting the organisation to live on in different form. The UDA seems to be aiming for a mixture of 2 and 3, turning itself into some sort of non-armed political entity and paying off its soldiers. This one doesn’t have a very good record – disarmed freikorps and einwohnerwehren were the first organisational underpinning of the Nazi party, and rearmed pretty damn quick whenever it was asked of them. And the Kärntner Heimatdienst in Austria has been a nuisance ever since its creation.

Sometimes, though, there are only the options people let you have.

Now it’s all over, what was all the shooting about?

To answer that question, we’d first need to know something of each side’s aims. Hezbollah’s were reasonably clear, at least as far as the decision to take the two soldiers prisoner went: put pressure on the Israelis to release their remaining Lebanese prisoners, and not incidentally demonstrate they were still Gangster Number One. After all, Hamas had managed to pull off the capture of Gideon Shalit and the destruction of a tank only days before, so something needed doing to maintain respect.

What they didn’t reckon with, basing their perceptual framework on Ariel Sharon’s 2004 decision to exchange prisoners, was the Israeli freakout that followed. Once that began, Hezbollah’s aims were to hold on to as much as possible whilst keeping their army in being, and score prestige triumphs like rocketing Haifa harbour and flying drones into Israel. Simple enough.

What were the Israeli aims, though? Just get the soldiers back? Negotiation would have done that. And, in the end, it doesn’t seem to have worried them very much. The Israelis seem remarkably unconcerned that two of their soldiers are left in Hezbollah hands – still! Demolish Hezbollah? Well, they seem to have liked the idea. But, if you look at the situation maps, their actions do not correspond to such grandiose goals. Quite simply, they did not go very far into Lebanon, ever – despite the talk of going to the Litani, they only went there as a token presence. Secure the north from rockets? This would have meant going well beyond the Litani, perhaps to the Awali river line, which would have put the great bulk of the rockets out of range for as long as they stayed. But they spent so much time talking of a two mile deep security zone – which would help not a jot.

There are a couple of explanations. One is that they would have marched to the Litani but Hezbollah (and the Shia Amal, and the Communists) beat them. I’m not sure. They certainly put up an impressive defence, but whether they could have prevented Tsahal from breaking through if it had been bent on doing so is another matter. In all, four Israeli divisions were employed, and at no time was a manoeuvre bigger than brigade strength launched except perhaps at the very end. Another is that the Israelis were trying to avoid the 1978 scenario, where Hezbollah just retires behind the Litani in an affair of outposts, by trying to draw them on to their positions in the south. Another is that they were conflicted and unsure of aims, and that there was effectively no overall strategy. If 1982 was a war for psychotics, with its obsessive blitz ever further north and climatic massacre, this was one for neurotics.

The drawing-on tactic is possible, I suppose, but for an army as tank-oriented as the Israelis against an enemy made up of small mobile ATGW teams, very unfavourable. It would have amounted to parking a lot of tanks in southern Lebanon as targets. It might have had some appeal to a command torn between the will to wound and the fear to strike, though, unwilling to plunge north but under pressure to confront the enemy. It might also have appealed to the airpower theorist, Halutz, as a way of flushing Hezbollah fighters so his aircraft could attack them – but three-man rocket teams are not good targets, and the decision not to charge north meant that they wouldn’t collect at the bridges like good little sheep. (This may be the result of learning the wrong lesson from Kosovo.)

That the IDF simply didn’t have a strategy is perhaps supported by the fact a key commander, the head of the northern command, was sacked. Everyone will now draw whatever conclusions they want from the war – the 4th Generation Warfare crowd will point to the rocketing of the Haifa port and the village reserve groups with their rockets as more evidence for their side, the neo-cons will cry Iran, the Quai d’Orsay will positively purr, and the Lebanese will in all probability conclude that the more tank-hunters between them and the Israelis, the better.

I prefer the Colonel’s analysis, which is that Hezbollah is just at the turning point from a guerrilla force to an army in Maoist revolutionary war theory. They are known to have studied Vietnam extensively, after all. For the laughs, meanwhile, Col. Lang described the Hezbollah first line of defence as the Tabouleh Line, with the next being the Shawarma Line. I disagree. I think the talk of bunkers and tunnel complexes is overrated – every front-line account I’ve seen speaks of small groups of tank hunters shooting and moving, hiding out in the open, and practically all the Israeli losses came from them. It’s more accurate to say that Hezbollah drew the Israelis into a hoummus.